A summary of the most prominent deities of this important Mesoamerican civilization.
Mayan mythology is one of the most mysterious in terms of the origin and meaning of their rituals, which are based on offering sacrifices to the Mayan gods. Despite the fact that the people of the Maya were given the task of stamping their myths on paper, this would not be of much use after the arrival of the Spanish to American lands.
The Spanish burned much of the papers where the mythology of the Mayans was, and that is why today there are many gaps in what we know about the beliefs and culture of this particular people.
However, data are known about the Mayan gods, entities that this Mesoamerican people worshiped. In this article we will see which are the main Mayan deities that exist and some of their characteristics.
The most important Mayan gods
There are three Mayan texts that survived the burning of the Spanish ( Popol Vuh , Chilam Balam , and Las Crónicas de Chacxulubchen ); They are from where most of the information that is had so far on that culture and its religion has been extracted. Based on these documents, below we will review a list of the most influential Mayan gods.
1. Hunab Ku: Father of all Gods
Within the Mayan culture, this god is the only one who has life and from which all other things come, not only the other Mayan gods, but everything that is around us.
He is a dual god, so he also represents everything and nothing. The Mayans invoke it through the Sun, where they believe it comes from.
2. Chaac: God of lightning and rain
This Deity is one of the most popular and praised in the pantheon of the Mayans, since gifts are attributed to him to provide abundant crops. He is illustrated as an old man with a reptilian trunk and tongue.
In the Yucatan Peninsula, an area plagued by droughts, is where this god is most worshiped.
3. Itzamná: god of wisdom
This deity is one of the most multifaceted that the Mayans had. It represents the origins of science and knowledge, it is also known as the God of the Sun, sovereign of the sky, master of the day and night.
This God is in charge of maintaining a balance between life and death, and promotes chaos so that new creations can exist.
4. Pawahtún: Carrier of the Cosmos
Mayan mythology illustrates this deity in two different ways. In one of the versions he is seen as a single old toothless man with a tortoise shell, while in others he is placed as four men who are in charge of supporting the four corners of the universe.
Within the Mayan culture , the tortoise shell is a symbol of strength and protection, since it was in one of them that the Sun and the Moon hid during the destruction of the world.
5. Ixchel: goddess of love
This deity is the wife of the God of wisdom (Itzamná) and is associated with multiple actions in addition to love. Manual labor, vegetation, fertility and medicine are some of the things with which it is associated within the Mayan culture.
The illustration of this goddess consists of an old woman emptying a vessel on the surface of the earth.
6. Kinich Ahau: god of the sun
With respect to this God there is a debate, since it is said that it originates from two different deities but it is not clear from which of them it really comes. Everything will depend on the region where it is worshiped.
Some say it comes from Itzamná, while others say it comes from Kinich Kakmo. Beyond this dilemma, Kinich Ahau is considered in addition to the sun god the patron of music and poetry.
7. Yum Kaax: god of corn
It is another of the most praised deities of the Mayans, because they are attributed abilities to favor hunters in terms of their luck, and to be responsible for the good harvests of the sowers. The Mayans show him as a young man and busy in manual labor of the land.
8. Kauil: god of fire
The Mayans describe him within their culture as the father and mother of humans, fire had a transcendental role within the mythology of the Mayans. The inhabitants of this civilization believed that those who dominated the power of fire were capable of controlling their inner violence.
The rituals to this god continue today based on bonfires in which the participants, after having interacted with the fire of these, come out renewed. He is illustrated as an ambiguous figure with a serpentine mouth and a long nose.
9. Ek Chuah: god of cocoa
A God provided with two specific capacities by the Mayan culture. The first is to encourage and favor the sowing of cocoa on the land, and the second is to promote conflicts as the patron of war.
He was very popular with street vendors, who worshiped him daily to keep their sales going.
10. Yum Kimil: god of death
Sovereign of the underworld and of the Mayan hell, this malevolent Deity served as a source of inspiration for the illustrations that are currently given to death in many of its versions, especially the one that represents it as a skeleton.
Yum Kimil, according to Mayan mythology, prowled the houses of the sick to hunt down new victims and take them to hell. The way they had to drive him away was by screaming as loudly as they could.
- Looper, M. (2009). To be like Gods. Dance in Ancient Maya Civilization. Austin: University of Texas Press.
- Taube, K. (1992). The Major Gods of Ancient Yucatán. Washington: Dumbarton Oaks.